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Starting Up and Scaling Up with Kimbal Musk

Kimbal Musk posing in a restaurant
Kimbal Musk posing in a restaurant
Photo by Ryan David Brown

Kimbal Musk, chef, restaurateur, philanthropist, and real food entrepreneur, shares his experience as an entrepreneur, along with tips on how to adapt to the new normal, navigate early-stage barriers, and scale up.

What led you down the path of entrepreneurship and how did you find success?

I grew up wanting to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t tie my purpose to my passion of food for many years. My grandfather was the ultimate explorer and entrepreneur, mapping parts of Southern Africa. He was an incredible inspiration, as was my mother. Entrepreneurship, pioneering, whatever you call it, was built into us from when we were born.

Success comes from following your heart. Many times in my life, I dove into businesses that weren’t my passion, or I did things out of mania to just keep busy. I’ve learned over my life to slow down in my thinking and constantly do a check-in that what I’m doing really matters to me. It may not be that interesting to other people and that’s okay. When I love it, I put 150 percent of my energy into it, and no matter how things work out, I know I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else.

As a serial entrepreneur, what advice do you have for small- and medium-sized business owners looking to grow their businesses?

The best advice that I can give is to be open to learning from everyone. Be curious. Learn from the young and the old. From the experienced and the inexperienced. No one has the right answer and you never know who you’ll get insight from next.

My other advice is to always run your company like a startup even when it’s in a growth phase. It will allow you to stay scrappy and resilient. 

How has resiliency helped you start and grow your own businesses?

Resiliency is a word that resonates now more than ever for me. Coming out of this terrible pandemic, we are all realizing the importance of resiliency. I’ve always tried to embrace change as a matter of life and to use it as an opportunity to innovate and pivot. 

What tips can you give small- and medium-sized business owners looking to adapt to the new normal of working from home?

I hope that we will see a return to office life. The in-person collaboration opportunities in an office are very hard to replicate in the work-at-home environment. Zoom and other video conferencing has been incredibly useful this last year to maintain face-to-face communication, but nothing beats in-person when it can happen. I would encourage business owners to provide flexibility to work at home but to embrace the opportunities for real life collaboration when it can happen safely.

How can small- and medium-sized business owners successfully navigate early-stage barriers?

My advice is to focus on finding the right people to work with. If you’re surrounded by inspiring, energizing people who you trust, you can navigate startup pain points. Also, keep your product simple.

What’s the most critical element that businesses must get right today when they’re scaling up? 

Stay passionate and engaged. Scaling can be really difficult, so remembering why you were passionate about the business in the first place is key to staying focused. From there you’ll find pathways to scale and reach as many people as possible with your great ideas or products.

Kimbal Musk is a chef, restaurateur, philanthropist, and real food entrepreneur. His personal mission is to pursue an America where everyone has access to real food. Mr. Musk has been named a Global Social Entrepreneur by the World Economic Forum. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Kitchen Restaurant Group and is the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Big Green and Square Roots.

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